The Magic 8 Ball predicts the losers and winners of 2011.

I suck at predictions, but everyone else is doing them. Luckily, I have a Magic 8 Ball. I’m just gonna list some games, and ask the Magic 8 Ball what it thinks of them. Question to the 8 Ball for all of these games: Will this game have a good year in 2011?

Age of Conan: “Outlook Not So Good”. AoC released its first expansion, “Ride of the Godslayer”, last summer, and that’s pretty much the last I’ve heard of the game. I don’t think the Magic 8 Ball is correct; I think Funcom is content to support their current player base without feeling the need to go F2P. Their massively hyped launch should have helped them recoup their development costs years ago.

Aion: “Concentrate and Ask Again”. November saw Aion publish a massive revamp which added more loot to the game. December brought with it a rebalancing of the world PvP via rifts. Perhaps the Magic 8 Ball’s confusion stemmed from the game’s more Asian market?
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Assault on the In Box, Friday edition

Lots of people really do ask me what I DO in EverQuest? Truth be told, most of the time I am either working on my Epic 1.5 (the rogue epic quest is THE WORST of them all), do monster missions for gear and experience, or do the Boomerang! event in Brell’s Rest. It’s a simple arena game; everyone in the party chooses a team — red, blue or gold, like in Star Trek — and each is given boomerangs in their opponent’s two colors. You enter, are transformed into a gnoll of your color, and you run around and fling boomerangs at enemies while dodging boomerangs thrown at you, as well as explosive barrels that drop randomly from the ceiling. You get one point for hitting an enemy; lose one point for being hit twice and lose five points for being blown up by an explosive barrel. After five minutes, the top three get gold tokens (used to buy high level uber weapons), and everyone gets silver tokens appropriate to their point total, used to buy a wide variety of gear and augments.

Anyway. I get e-mails about games, and like a good little consumer, I want to share them with people who manage to get on fewer mailing lists than I do. You can’t stop the signal!

EverQuest 2: From 3PM PDT today to midnight PDT Sunday, you’ll get increased xp in EverQuest 2. That’s nice of them. What really gets me is their little extra note — “Purchase Adventure and AA Experience potions in the Marketplace with Station Cash for even more of a boost. Grind no more, level up quicker!” (Emphasis mine)

First of all, their marketing people don’t know the difference between adjectives and adverbs? I know, I know…. I’ll be damned, though, if this little blurb really makes me wonder. “Grind no more, level up quickly!” I think I have seen that on a hundred F2P games which INTENTIONALLY put in punishing grinds so that players will be driven to their cash shops. What EQ2 is essentially saying is that the stretch from level 80 to level 90 is put there purely to slow you down from getting to the ‘good stuff’ at 90, that there is no reason to take your time leveling. “Spend money and avoid this pointless grind we have put here for no other reason than to annoy you!”

They then go on to ask you to “explore ten more adventure levels with Sentinel’s Fate!” The very same levels they advertised in the previous paragraph as a pointless grind you could spend money to skip.

Granted, players could be leveling through the lower content and not just the final ten levels, but isn’t the POINT of an MMO — a subscription one, anyway — that the journey should be just as fun and rewarding as the end?

Aion: All these extra experience weekends are making me think that something special must be happening. Well, I guess it IS “spring break” in the US, and most of the schools and colleges are giving students the week off. So you can get drunk and party with your closest friends in Florida, or get drunk and party with random abusive strangers in an MMO. Your choice!

Today through Sunday, Aion is having a XXP weekend. “Extra Experience Points”, I guess is what that stands for, but “EEP” doesn’t sound as cool. Maybe it’s “EXTREME EXPERIENCE POINTS!!!!1!!!”, but that’s so 90s. And when did the 90s get so far away? ANYWAY. At least they didn’t say in their e-mail that players could take this opportunity to escape the punishing grind to the good levels.

This is all leads up to their v1.9 patch, which “… adds solo and daily quest content, fine-tunes the leveling experience, and balances class abilities while integrating interface and ease-of-play improvements-and its release is just around the corner!”

Aion is also adding $25 $24.99 character transfers between servers. They fired their old character moving intern and hired a new one at a lower rate, so they were able to knock off that extra cent for you. Free from the tyranny of $25 character transfers, players can now save that extra cent, perhaps buy something nice for the missus! Mother’s Day is coming, you know!

Lord of the Rings Online: Bucking the trend, LotRO doesn’t start their birthday celebrations until Monday. They’re bringing the Spring Festival back for a week. It’s like second breakfast, except this is Second Spring. All the old festival games will be back, the new festival horses which might actually be working this time, etc. Through the month of June, you can also earn tokens for defeating monsters that can be redeemed for extra stuff, and subscribe at the “founders rate” of $9.99/month. It was going to be $10/month, but they dramatically lowered their cost and are passing the savings on to you. Take that extra cent and buy something nice for the kids, they’ll love you for it.

Earth Eternal: The furry anthropomorphic MMO celebrates Earth Day yesterday (sorry) and today with special events. The trees are running wild, and adventurers of every size and shape need to run, slither, fly or teleport to battle to defeat the Rotted Treekin before they turn the future Earth into an arboreal paradise free of intelligent life with axes. It’s a huge GM event! I remember when EQ used to run those….

EE is also adding a new zone, and an option to download the game client so that you won’t need to run it from a browser any more. Are you listening, Free Realms?

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine: The demon hunter/trainer MMO adds a new cinematic plot to their already heavily story-based game. I’m just gonna paste the blurb here, because really, there’s nothing I can say:

Saburo, a would-be famous treasure hunter, is attempting to break free from Snakeman. For some time, Snakeman has been attempting to persuade Saburo into using his finely honed skills in service to Tokyo as a Demon Buster. All of Snakeman’s attempts have been in vain, however; Saburo has been earnestly plotting his escape. In order for Saburo to escape Snakeman’s clutches, he will be asking for your assistance while he tries to escape through the hidden routes under Home III.

Confused? You’ll just have to play to figure out what it all means.

Dungeons & Dragons Online: Tired of calling up your family and writing your friends whenever you level in D&D Online? Well, save the stamps and put your cell away, because DDO is offering a new Facebook app that can automatically spread word of your amazing in-game accomplishments to everyone you know. Don’t be surprised if your mom has a cake waiting for you when your epic 32-point drow monk dings 6! It’s important to get the word out!

You can also go skating for fun and profit (theirs) with the return of the Risa Ice Games. You can find the Risa Ice rising (like sunken Ry’leh) from Stormreach Harbor. Compete in games of skill and feats of strength, and don’t forget to let your Facebook friends in on the fun!

Daily Blogroll 10/10: Short Week edition

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’ve been playing a bit of Earth Eternal since it went into open-closed beta yesterday. Since I think we’re still unable to actually show the game, here’s a picture of the upcoming stop motion/cgi film, Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Now, I don’t KNOW that Sparkplay’s gonna close down to go to the premiere, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Should kids gamble on the Internet? Evil Theurgists wonders why KingsIsle is encouraging kids to blow their parent’s moolah spinning the virtual wheels of Wizard101’s new slot machine — where you spend 15 (and up) Crowns to win the usual prize of 20 gold. You get 15 twirls a day and the rewards are minuscule so… let’s hope this is one feature that doesn’t make it out of testing.

How long must you play an MMO before you can honestly review it? Tobold thinks 5000 hours should be just about enough to give World of Warcraft a good looking-at. His conclusion? It just might stick around awhile.

Come back in 2014 for Tobold’s take on Champions Online and Fallen Earth :)

And in a similar vein, Anton is wondering if anyone has heard about this new game, “Aion”. Any good?

Dear Anton: Flavor of the month. In a year, they’ll all be playing WoW: Cataclysm and Aion will just be a footnote. Bank on it. Nobody leaves WoW alive.

Think higher level players should (at the very least) be able to speak English well (if on an English server)? Spinks thinks players should have to apply for more powerful characters as they level. And why not? MMOs these days are MUCH more like jobs than games, right?

Now that Cryptic has launched Champions Online to great acclaim, Syp hopes the lessons learned from the Champions launch can ease the way for their next MMO, Star Trek Online. Most importantly, when players complain of the smoke, their might possibly be a fire.

I have to confess to being a total STO newb. Assuming Star Trek Online doesn’t limit ship names to sailing ships of the 17th and 18th centuries, I’ll be captaining the science vessel “Newton” on an archaeological mission to learn more of the Progenitors, the ancient forebears of most humanoid races in the galaxy. Oh, not named after the famed scientist, ISAAC Newton. No, named after the suburb of Boston. Always loved that place.

MMO commentator Petter has a single word for those who buy gold: asshat. It’s going on your permanent record.

Well, I guess that’s enough for this morning. Too much Earth Eternal, not enough writing! I leave you with Dr. Horrible’s Neil Patrick Harris as he sings Batman to death

Earth Eternal open beta opening early for closed beta testers

Um, title kinda says it all. But to repeat — the new, free, browser-based, anthropomorphic MMO from Sparkplay has just finished up its closed beta and is trundling steadily toward open. But if you were one of the lucky few to get into the closed beta, you can get into the open beta starting…. tomorrow, Thursday.

If you like MMOs where furry critters gain thumbs and intelligence and learn to make their way in a world humans have mysteriously left behind, then you’re probably already an Earth Eternal player.

Here’s the press release — and there’ll be a ‘first look’ from me in a few days, after open beta has truly and unmistakeably begun:

First off, a big THANK YOU for participating in the Earth Eternal Closed Beta. With your help we were able to identify and fix over 1000 bugs!

As a reward, we are going to allow all of our closed beta testers into Open Beta a few days before the rest of the world and give you a chance to claim your character names and play through the early levels first.

As an additional bonus, all credits you purchase will give you an additional 30% bonus credits from now until Open Beta. Stock up early!

We’re going to open Earth Eternal to you starting this Thursday at around 3 pm Pacific time (10pm GMT). Just log in, create your character and you’re off! You will also receive a little gift in your inventory from us.

Thanks and see you in-game!